Priestly Celibacy

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First, some definitions:

  • Chastity is an aspect of the virtue of temperance. It pertains to the ordered use of the sexual faculty.
  • Celibacy is the state of being unmarried.
  • Sexual continence refers to total abstinence from sexual relations.

 

Everyone is called to chastity.

For the married, chastity can include sexual relations.

For the unmarried, chastity requires sexual continence.

Priests are called to be chaste by being totally sexually continent. Because of this, they are also called to be celibate.

Now some facts which I present because of the incessant push to normatively allow for married priests, which some see as a solution to the problems of clerical sexual abuse and the shortage of priests. To support this very bad idea, history is twisted, with some asserting that priestly celibacy is a medieval whim rather than the logical consequence of the required sexual continence. They will point toward Eastern rite and Orthodox priests as the way things should be. They are wrong.


 

Fact: St. Peter and some other of the Apostles were married.

Fact: Once called by Christ, the Apostles embraced sexual continence, refraining from sexual relations with their wives (Matthew 19:29: “And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.”; I Corinthians 7:8 “But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: It is good for them if they so continue, even as I.”; I Corinthians 7:32-33 “But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided.”, etc.).

Fact:  Old Covenant priests refrained from sexual relations before offering their sacrifices (see Leviticus).

Fact: New Covenant priests are also to refrain from sexual relations before offering their Sacrifice.

Fact: Because New Covenant priests in the West offer the Sacrifice daily, perpetual sexual continence is called for. [In the East, it wasn’t the practice for each priest to offer Mass each day.]

Fact: Because perpetual priestly sexual continence is called for in the West, celibacy became the norm.

Fact: Perpetual sexual continence before offering the Sacrifice is the way of apostolic perfection, which the Roman Church preserves intact by insisting on celibacy

Fact: The ordained priesthood is radically different from the royal priesthood of believers. Holy Orders is a Sacrament that leaves an indelible mark on the soul of the recipient, who acts in persona Christi to offer the Son to the Father. Laypeople do not have this mark, authority, or power. Treating the ordained as mere functionaries is wrong.

Fact: Priests emulate the Divine Bridegroom by being married to the Church. To act as married to a woman is a sort of bigamy.

Fact: Priests express paternity through spiritual fatherhood. It isn’t fair to children to have to share their fathers, as fathers, with the world.

Fact: Good, traditional priests work incredibly long hours, have no set working hours (e.g., they are called in the middle of the night to offer Unction, etc.), don’t make enough to support families, etc. (Are you willing to at least quadruple what you give to support your priest so he can support his wife and seven children?) Treating the priesthood as something married men can do as a “part-time gig” is to disrespect and not understand the office of the priest.

Fact: That Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches have married priests is a falling away from apostolic perfection (see below) allowed only because they didn’t offer the Sacrifice daily, and it comes with a whole host of problems (e.g., they often have to work “second jobs” (not that the priesthood is a “job”) in order to feed their familes; their families, like the families of Protestant ministers, are held to extremely high standards, which puts intense pressure on them, often resulting in “preacher’s kid syndrome”; etc.).

Fact: That Orthodox and Eastern Churches are lax in this area is no good reason for the Roman Church to become lax in this area.

Fact: The more lax priestly discipline is, the more banal the liturgy, the less that is expected of priests, the more the sanctuary is swarming with girls and women, and the more the priests see themselves and are treated as a cross between glorified social workers and sacraments-dispensers, the less often good, masculine men will be drawn to the priesthood.

Fact: There was no dearth of priests before the Second Vatican Council, and even now, traditional seminaries are full while diocesan seminaries are emptying.

Fact: Not being married and not having heterosexual sex do not cause homosexuality or pedophilia.

Fact: Re. the human element of the Church’s clerical sexual abuse problem: 81% of the victims are male; 90% are between the ages of 13 and 19. They aren’t kids; they’re pubescent and physically sexually mature teenaged boys and young men. The Church doesn’t have a pedophile problem; She has a homosexual hebephilia and, mostly, ephebophilia problem.

Fact: Marriage and heterosexual sex do not cure homosexuality, pedophilia, hebephilia, or ephebophilia.

The cures for the problems of clerical sexual abuse and the homosexualization of a too-large percentage of the clergy are:

  • to have orthodox gatekeepers and good spiritual directors at our seminaries, men who follow Church discipline in not ordaining homosexuals;
  • to return to the traditional liturgy, traditional sacramental rites, and orthodoxy, and to realize that it is lax discipline and banalized, feminized liturgy that has caused men to become uninterested in the priesthood;
  • to treat homosexuality (the inclination, not homosexual acts) as a disorder, not a sin, and to treat homosexuals with dignity and charity so that homosexuals are out of the closet, unashamed for having a disorder they did not choose, and not tempted to use the seminary as a “hide-out” or an explanation as to why they’re not interested in girls.

The cure is not to further corrupt traditional practices.

To those who say that allowing married priests will fix the priest shortage: that would just serve to water down the priesthood even more, driving orthodox men away from what masculine men are naturally attracted to: a challenge. The logic is akin to saying we’d have more attorneys if we were to let anyone who’s graduated from 8th grade practice law: sure, at first, maybe, we’d have
“more attorneys,” but what sort of lawyers would they be? How would people come to think of the practice of law as a profession after that? Would the best and brightest be attracted to the practice of law after it’s been bastardized in that way? The answer is Tradition, not further liberalization. There was no priest shortage before Vatican II (parishes typically had multiple priests!), and today’s traditional seminaries are full of seminarians; it’s the liberal ones that are dying (if you’re wondering why, then, Bishops don’t push for more Tradition so we’ll have more priests, you need to read the Traditional Catholicism 101 page and understand that the health of the Church, fidelity to Christ, and salvation of souls are not the concerns of many Bishops).

And to those who say that celibacy is a “mere discipline”: technically, yes, celibacy is a discipline, a law, but sexual continence isn’t, and the celibacy instituted to help ensure continence shouldn’t be changed. From Aquinas’s Summa, I:II:97:2., “Whether human law should always be changed, whenever something better occurs?”:

As stated above (Article 1), human law is rightly changed, in so far as such change is conducive to the common weal. But, to a certain extent, the mere change of law is of itself prejudicial to the common good: because custom avails much for the observance of laws, seeing that what is done contrary to general custom, even in slight matters, is looked upon as grave. Consequently, when a law is changed, the binding power of the law is diminished, in so far as custom is abolished. Wherefore human law should never be changed, unless, in some way or other, the common weal be compensated according to the extent of the harm done in this respect. Such compensation may arise either from some very great and every evident benefit conferred by the new enactment; or from the extreme urgency of the case, due to the fact that either the existing law is clearly unjust, or its observance extremely harmful. Wherefore the jurist says [Pandect. Justin. lib. i, ff., tit. 4, De Constit. Princip.] that “in establishing new laws, there should be evidence of the benefit to be derived, before departing from a law which has long been considered just.”

Those with a proper sensus Catholicus should be pained at the idea of throwing away a 2,000 year old Apostolic tradition as an experiment. “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” — and it ain’t broke. What is broken is the post-conciliar rejection of the tried and true. We need a restoration, not further revolution.

 

Support of Priestly Celibacy as the Way of Apostolic Perfection

Gospel According to St. Matthew 19:27-30

Then Peter answering, said to him: Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee: what therefore shall we have?

And Jesus said to them: Amen, I say to you, that you, who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting. And many that are first, shall be last: and the last shall be first.

Tertullian, A.D. 160 – 240
Prescription against Heretics, Chapter 40

The question will arise, By whom is to be interpreted the sense of the passages which make for heresies? By the devil, of course, to whom pertain those wiles which pervert the truth, and who, by the mystic rites of his idols, vies even with the essential portions of the sacraments of God. He, too, baptizes some — that is, his own believers and faithful followers; he promises the putting away of sins by a laver (of his own); and if my memory still serves me, Mithra there, (in the kingdom of Satan,) sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection , and before a sword wreathes a crown. What also must we say to (Satan’s) limiting his chief priest to a single marriage? He, too, has his virgins; he, too, has his proficients in continence.

Council of Elvira, A.D. 306, Canon XXXIII

27. A bishop or other cleric may have only a sister or a daughter who is a virgin consecrated to God living with him. No other woman who is unrelated to him may remain.

33. Bishops, presbyters, deacons, and others with a position in the ministry are to abstain completely from sexual intercourse with their wives and from the procreation of children.  If anyone disobeys, he shall be removed from the clerical office.

Epiphanius of Salamis, A.D. 310/320-403, The Panarion, Part 25 (Epiphanius Against the Nicolaitans, spoken of in Apocalypse 2:1-6, 11-15)

1:1 Nicolaus was one of the seven deacons chosen by the apostles, together with the saint and first martyr Stephen, and Prochorus, Parmenas and the others.

1:2 He was from Antioch and became a proselyte. But after that he received the message of the proclamation of Christ, joined the disciples himself, and was at first ranked among the foremost. He was thus included among the ones who were chosen at the time to care for the widows.

1:3 Later, however, the devil slipped into him and deceived his heart with the same imposture of the ancients whom we have been discussing, so that he was more severely wounded than the ones before him.

1:4 Though he had a beautiful wife he had refrained from intercourse with her, as though in emulation of those whom he saw devoting themselves to God. He persevered for a while but could not bear to control his incontinence till the end. Instead, desiring to return like a dog to its vomit, he kept looking for poor excuses and inventing them in defence of his own intemperate passion. (Being ashamed and repenting would have done him more good!) Then, failing of his purpose, he simply began having sex with his wife.

1:5 But because he was ashamed of his defeat and suspected that he had been found out, he ventured to say, ‘Unless one copulates every day, he has no part in eternal life.’

1:6 For he had shifted from one pretence to another. Seeing that his wife was unusually beautiful and yet bore herself with modesty, he envied her. And, supposing that everyone was as lascivious as he, he began by constantly being offensive to his wife and making certain slanderous charges against her in speeches. And at length he degraded himself not only to normal sexual activity but to a blasphemous opinion, the harm of perverse teaching, and the deceit of the covert introduction of wickedness.

2:1 And from this source the founders of what is falsely termed ‘Knowledge’ began their evil sprouting in the world—I mean the people who are called Gnostics and Phibionites, the so-called disciples of Epiphanes, the Stratiotics, Levitics, Borborites and the rest. For each of these, in attracting his own sect with his own passions, invented countless ways of doing evil…

…3:1 But if anyone would like to see the Holy Spirit’s rebuttal in the case of Nicolaus’ sect, he must learn it from the Revelation of St. John. John writes in the Lord’s name to one of the churches—that is, to the bishop appointed there with the power of the holy angel at the altar—and says, ‘One good thing thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.’…

…6:5 And on your terms, Nicolaus, where is the application of the Saviour’s saying, ‘There are some eunuchs which were made eunuchs of men, and there are some which were eunuchs from birth, and there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake?’

6:6 If there are eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, why have you deceived yourself and those who trust you, by holding God’s truth in unrighteousness with your copulation and unnatural vice, and teaching licentiousness?

6:7 And where do you see the application of, ‘Concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give my judgment, as one that hath attained mercy, that it is good so to be?’ And again, ‘The virgin careth for the things of the Lord, how she may please the Lord, that she may be holy in body and in spirit.’

6:8 And how much there is to say about purity, continence and celibacy—for the whole filth of uncleanness is brazenly spelled out by yourself! But with these two or three texts which I put before the reader in refutation of the absurd sect, my purpose is served here.

7:1 But next I shall go on and describe the sect which is closely associated with Nicolaus, like a wood overgrown with grass, a thicket of thorns tangled together in every direction, or a heap of dead trees and scrub in a field, ready for burning—because of its union with this sect of the wretched Nicolaus.

7:2 For as bodies contract infection from other bodies through inoculation, a malignant itch, or leprosy, so the so-called Gnostics are partly united with the Nicolaitans, since they took their cues from Nicolaus himself and his predecessors—I mean Simon and the others. They are called ‘knowledgeable,’ but they are known all too well for the wickedness and obscenity in the transactions of their unclean trade.

7:3 For with the reed that was placed in Christ’s hand we have truly struck and destroyed this man as well, who practiced continence for a short while and then abandoned it—like the creature called the newt, which comes from the water to land and returns to the water again. Let us move on to the sects which follow.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem A.D. 315-386
Catechetical Lectures 12:25

For it became Him who is most pure, and a teacher of purity, to have come forth from a pure bride-chamber. For if he who well fulfils the office of a priest of Jesus abstains from a wife, how should Jesus Himself be born of man and woman? For thou, says He in the Psalms, art He that took Me out of the womb. Mark that carefully, He that took Me out of the womb, signifying that He was begotten without man, being taken from a virgin’s womb and flesh. For the manner is different with those who are begotten according to the course of marriage.

Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325, Canon III

The great Council has stringently forbidden any bishop, priest, deacon, or any of the clergy, to have a woman living with him, except a mother, sister, aunt, or some such person who is beyond all suspicion.

St. Jerome, A.D. 340-420, Against Jovinianus, Book I, 35

35. The bishop, then, must be without reproach, so that he is the slave of no vice: the husband of one wife, that is, in the past, not in the present…

…36.  But you will say: If everybody were a virgin, what would become of the human race? Like shall here beget like. If everyone were a widow, or continent in marriage, how will mortal men be propagated? Upon this principle there will be nothing at all for fear that something else may cease to exist. To put a case: if all men were philosophers, there would be no husbandmen. Why speak of husbandmen? There would be no orators, no lawyers, no teachers of the other professions. If all men were leaders, what would become of the soldiers? If all were the head, whose head would they be called, when there were no other members? You are afraid that if the desire for virginity were general there would be no prostitutes, no adulteresses, no wailing infants in town or country. Every day the blood of adulterers is shed, adulterers are condemned, and lust is raging and rampant in the very presence of the laws and the symbols of authority and the courts of justice. Be not afraid that all will become virgins: virginity is a hard matter, and therefore rare, because it is hard: Many are called, few chosen.

St. Ambrose, A.D. 340-397, Epistle LXIII, 62

And so the Apostle has given a pattern, saying that a bishop must be blameless, 1 Timothy 3:2 and in another place: A bishop must be without offense, as a steward of God, not proud, not soon angry, not given to wine, not a striker, not greedy of filthy lucre. Titus 1:7 For how can the compassion of a dispenser of alms and the avarice of a covetous man agree together?

I have set down these things which I have been told are to be avoided, but the Apostle is the Master of virtues, and he teaches that gainsayers are to be convicted with patience, Titus 1:9 who lays down that one should be the husband of a single wife, Titus 1:6 not in order to exclude him from the right of marriage (for this is beyond the force of the precept), but that by conjugal chastity he may preserve the grace of his baptismal washing; nor again that he may be induced by the Apostle’s authority to beget children in the priesthood; for he speaks of having children, not of begetting them, or marrying again.

Directa Decretal of Pope St. Siricius, A.D. 10 February 385

1…. In view of our office, we are not free to dissemble or to keep silent, for our zeal for the Christian religion ought to be greater than anyone’s. We bear the burdens of all who are heavy laden, or rather the blessed apostle Peter bears them in us, who in all things, as we trust, protects and defends those who are heirs of his government.

2. That Arians must not be rebaptized. At the beginning of your page, you have observed that many who were baptized by the wicked Arians are hastening to the catholic faith, and that some of our brethren wish to baptize them again: this is illegal, being forbidden by the apostle, by the canons, and in a general order sent to the provinces by my predecessor Liberius of revered memory, after the quashing of the Ariminum council. As has been laid down in synod, we admit these persons, in common with Novatianists and other heretics, into the congregation of catholics, only through the invocation of the sevenfold Spirit, by the laying on of hands of a bishop. All the East and West keep this rule; and in future it is by no means fitting that you, either, should deviate from this path, if you do not wish to be separated from our college by sentence of the synod.

3. That baptism is only to be bestowed, save under stress of necessity, at Easter and Pentecost….. Up to now there have been enough mistakes of this kind. In future all priests must keep the above rule who do not wish to be torn away from the solid apostolic rock upon which Christ build the universal Church.

4. That renegades to heathenism are to be excommunicated and, if penitent, to be reconciled only at death.

5. That a girl who is betrothed may not be married to another man.

6. That Christians who, after penance, return to heathen lusts, are to be denied Communion.

7. That unchaste ‘religious’ are to be expelled from their convents.

8-11 That married men, after ordination, are not to cohabit with their wives.

Council of Carthage, A.D. 387 or 390, Canon III

Aurelius the bishop said:  When at the past council the matter on continency and chastity was considered, those three grades, which by a sort of bond are joined to chastity by their consecration, to wit bishops, presbyters, and deacons, so it seemed that it was becoming that the sacred rulers and priests of God as well as the Levites, or those who served at the divine sacraments, should be continent altogether, by which they would be able with singleness of heart to ask what they sought from the Lord:  so that what the apostles taught and antiquity kept, that we might also keep.


And this is when the East goes Lax. Note, though, that even as they are breaking away from the apostolic tradition, they offer statements in support of continence before offering the Sacrifice of the altar, words that show how the people were scandalized by priests who don’t keep away from their wives, etc.:

Quinisext Council (Council in Trullo), A.D. 692, an Eastern Council not accepted by the Roman Church

Canon III

Since our pious and Christian Emperor has addressed this holy and ecumenical council, in order that it might provide for the purity of those who are in the list of the clergy, and who transmit divine things to others, and that they may be blameless ministers, and worthy of the sacrifice of the great God, who is both Offering and High Priest, a sacrifice apprehended by the intelligence: and that it might cleanse away the pollutions wherewith these have been branded by unlawful marriages: now whereas they of the most holy Roman Church purpose to keep the rule of exact perfection, but those who are under the throne of this heaven-protected and royal city keep that of kindness and consideration, so blending both together as our fathers have done, and as the love of God requires, that neither gentleness fall into licence, nor severity into harshness; especially as the fault of ignorance has reached no small number of men, we decree, that those who are involved in a second marriage, and have been slaves to sin up to the fifteenth of the past month of January, in the past fourth Indiction, the year six thousand one hundred and nine, and have not resolved to repent of it, be subjected to canonical deposition: but that they who are involved in this disorder of a second marriage, but before our decree have acknowledged what is fitting, and have cut off their sin, and have put far from them this strange and illegitimate connection, or they whose wives by second marriage are already dead, or who have turned to repentance of their own accord, having learned continence, and having quickly forgotten their former iniquities, whether they be presbyters or deacons, these we have determined should cease from all priestly ministrations or exercise, being under punishment for a certain time, but should retain the honour of their seat and station, being satisfied with their seat before the laity and begging with tears from the Lord that the transgression of their ignorance be pardoned them: for unfitting it were that he should bless another who has to tend his own wounds.

Canon XII

Moreover this also has come to our knowledge, that in Africa and Libya and in other places the most God-beloved bishops in those parts do not refuse to live with their wives, even after consecration, thereby giving scandal and offense to the people. Since, therefore, it is our particular care that all things tend to the good of the flock placed in our hands and committed to us — it has seemed good that henceforth nothing of the kind shall in any way occur.

Canon XIII

Since we know it to be handed down as a rule of the Roman Church that those who are deemed worthy to be advanced to the diaconate or presbyterate should promise no longer to cohabit with their wives, we, preserving the ancient rule and apostolic perfection and order, will that the lawful marriages of men who are in holy orders be from this time forward firm, by no means dissolving their union with their wives nor depriving them of their mutual intercourse at a convenient time. Wherefore, if anyone shall have been found worthy to be ordained subdeacon, or deacon, or presbyter, he is by no means to be prohibited from admittance to such a rank, even if he shall live with a lawful wife. Nor shall it be demanded of him at the time of his ordination that he promise to abstain from lawful intercourse with his wife: lest we should affect injuriously marriage constituted by God and blessed by his presence, as the Gospel says: What God has joined together let no man put asunder; and the Apostle says, Marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled; and again, Are you bound to a wife? Seek not to be loosed. But we know, as they who assembled at Carthage (with a care for the honest life of the clergy) said, that subdeacons, who handle the Holy Mysteries, and deacons, and presbyters should abstain from their consorts according to their own course [of ministration]. So that what has been handed down through the Apostles and preserved by ancient custom, we too likewise maintain, knowing that there is a time for all things and especially for fasting and prayer. For it is meet that they who assist at the divine altar should be absolutely continent when they are handling holy things, in order that they may be able to obtain from God what they ask in sincerity.

If therefore anyone shall have dared, contrary to the Apostolic Canons, to deprive any of those who are in holy orders, presbyter, or deacon, or subdeacon of cohabitation and intercourse with his lawful wife, let him be deposed. In like manner also if any presbyter or deacon on pretence of piety has dismissed his wife, let him be excluded from communion; and if he persevere in this let him be deposed.


Enough with the madness, the homosexual abuse scandals, the liturgical chaos, the watering down of doctrine. Go “trad,” Catholics!